A palpable sense of excitement envelopes the NFL as the league returns to something close to normal operating procedure.
The start of training camp is two days away for 29 squads since the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers got going early.
But each team must face at least a little uncertainty as it returns to the field for its first padded practices of the year.
"I think that's when teams have their greatest amount of growth—it's through adversity," New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. "And so with training camp, that's what I'm most excited for. I wanna see how people respond."
In certain situations, teams can project where adversity will strike—whether through position battles, schematic changes, roster inefficiencies, etc. With those possibilities in mind, the following five squads have plenty of work to do to be fully prepared for the 2021 campaign.
Green Bay Packers
Will he or won't he?
Many different variations of the previous question dominated the NFL offseason, as the league's reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers, expressed his displeasure—directly or indirectly—with the Green Bay Packers organization.
The Packers are a Super Bowl contender with Rodgers. After all, the team made two consecutive NFC Championship Game appearances. Green Bay is counted among the best its conference has to offer.
But an asterisk exists until everyone knows whether Rodgers will end his holdout and join the team for training camp. Until then, the Packers must work on mending fences and getting the face of the franchise into the building to prepare for yet another season.
"But ask me what I think, and I'll tell you that Rodgers will probably get some sort of contract extension, and things will wind up being fine in the short term (with some of the long-term remaining a 'beautiful mystery')," Breer wrote. "As of right now, maybe he'd still like to play elsewhere. But from a football standpoint, it's hard to see where he'd be in a better situation to win another MVP or another Super Bowl."
Earlier this month, Rodgers discussed how he improved his mental health with some time away from everything.
"I've just really been trying to think about what puts me in the best frame of mind," the 37-year-old said, per ESPN's Ben Baby. "What habits can I form that allows me to feel most in my body, most present, happiest? And that's what I've been doing."
If the Packers can't bridge the gap, the organization has an entirely different scenario to work with. With sky-high expectations among cheeseheads, Jordan Love must show he's capable of taking over the offense and not be a hindrance. Head coach Matt LaFleur is in a difficult situation because Rodgers is one of the greatest of all time, while the staff may be trying to figure out how to adjust the offense and take advantage of Love's skill set.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the reigning AFC North champions, but the team is undergoing significant personnel, coaching and schematic changes.
The organization is known for its consistency and continuity, yet 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play behind a reworked offensive line and for a new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada.
Canada, who served as Pittsburgh's quarterbacks coach last season, is expected to shake things up quite a bit.
"I think this offense is going to be completely different. You'll see nothing that you've ever seen in the past. We are going to try and throw literally everything at everybody so that way we won't be predictable," he told reporters with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
"But in all seriousness, there is a lot of 'new' for someone who has kind of had a very similar offense for a long time … it has taken some extra studying, but it's a fun new challenge, and guys are getting it and hopefully it translates into winning football."
New systems take time to learn. Training camp and preseason reps are crucial to hitting the ground running for the start of the regular season. Furthermore, the group will be set on an unsteady foundation. The Steelers' front five will feature five new full-time starters.
Chukwuma Okorafor, who didn't even win the right tackle job in camp last season, will shift from the strong to the blind side. Zach Banner returns after winning the job but played in only one game because of a season-ending torn ACL. Trai Turner signed as a free agent a month ago. Kevin Dotson will take over on a full-time basis after a promising rookie campaign. Center remains up in the air with an ongoing competition between J.C. Hassenauer and third-round rookie Kendrick Green.
On top of those potential issues, the unit will work first-round running back Najee Harris into the mix as he becomes a focal point of the offensive attack.
Pittsburgh's defense should continue its excellence, especially with Melvin Ingram III's recent signing. But the Steelers must make significant strides on the other side of the ball.